When Chalvar Monteiro steps onto the NJPAC stage next weekend, the story of his love affair with dance will come full circle. The Newark stage rouses the fond memory of the first time he saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—the modern-dance troupe Monteiro is now a member of.
Founded by activist choreographer Alvin Ailey in 1958 in New York City, the company has appeared in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents. The current 40-member group tours nine months out of the year and will close their domestic tour in New Jersey during their annual Mother’s Day weekend (May 12-14) stop at NJPAC. Monteiro, a Montclair native who joined the company two years ago, will perform all three nights.
Seeing the Ailey dancers for the first time when he was just 12 motivated Monteiro, now 28, to pursue his dream of dancing.
Monteiro was moved by the performance, but also was excited to see, “dancers who looked like me on stage.”
Growing up, Monteiro and his four sisters participated in music-related extracurriculars like voice and instrument lessons. Monteiro’s favorite was dance sessions through the Dance Ministry, a free program at Christ Church in Montclair, where he was introduced to many forms of movement.
“When I was younger I really enjoyed moving in a super linear way,” says Monteiro. “I also loved the drama of the drums that you usually have in modern class.”
He soon began formal dance training on a scholarship the summer before high school at Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts in Montclair.
Soon after Miller encouraged her advanced students to attend the Ailey School for further training during the summers. Monteiro enrolled the summer of his sophomore year of high school and participated for three summers in a row. He graduated high school a year early and attended Montclair State University.
“When I got to college my focus shifted because growing up I was always told that I’m a natural performer but I need to learn how to refine the craft,” says Monteiro. “So then ballet in college became my second love.”
Joining Monteiro on the NJPAC stage will be Long Branch native Glenn Allen Sims, Monteiro’s mentor. Sims got his start in dance at the Academy of Dance Arts in Red Bank and has been with the Ailey company for 20 years, according to his bio on the website. His wife, Linda Celeste Sims, has been a member of Ailey for 21 years.
After a year at Montclair State, Monteiro transferred to SUNY Purchase where he earned a degree in dance. He freelanced until summer 2014 when he was offered a spot with Ailey II, a training ground for Ailey I.
Alvin Ailey’s timeless masterpiece, Revelations, has a special meaning to Monteiro and many of the dancers. First performed in 1960 at a YWHA in New York City, it now closes every Ailey production.
Monteiro estimates he has performed the 35-minute routine over 200 times. He says and it never gets stale.
“It represents everything we go through today as people,” says Monteiro. “Whether African-American or not, we’re all familiar with trials and tribulations, we’re all familiar with being downtrodden and feeling like there’s no way out.”
Following the NJPAC residency, the Ailey dancers have one week of shows at Lincoln Center (June 14-18) before heading out on a 10-week international tour beginning in Paris on July 4.Click here to leave a comment